Is it Shaq’s Fault? (Why the Suns are Sliding)

From ESPN.Com (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)Since Shawn Marion left town and Shaquille O’Neal arrived in Phoenix, the Suns have had 3 wins and 5 losses.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to conclude the Shaq trade was a bad thing for the Phoenix Suns, but having watched the games, it seemed to me like the Phoenix Suns have not been pushing the ball as aggressively as they used to, so I did some research.

Sure enough, in all 5 of the Suns’ losses, Phoenix had less fast break points than their opponents, and in all 3 wins, the Suns had more fast break points than their opponents.

In other words, since the Suns acquired Shaq, the fast break point differential has been 100% accurate in determining the Suns’ success!

Of course, fast breaks are highly dependent on grabbing defensive rebounds and creating turnovers.

As far as rebounds are concerned, the Suns are a surprising +32 on rebounds over their opponents since the trade, going from a -6 rebound differential per game to average +4 rebounds per game. Not only is Shaq personally doing a decent job of rebounding, grabbing 18 rebounds tonight against the Nuggets for example, but with Shaq on the floor, the other players shift position making the Suns a taller team overall and making each player a better rebounder in his own right.

As far as steals are concerned, however, the Suns have gone from averaging 7.53 steals per game before the trade to 4.85 after. By the way, any guesses as to who led the Suns in steals? That’s right, Shawn Marion, and he exactly doubled the Suns’ number 2 steals leader: Leandro Barbosa. What is more, Marion set a tone for the Suns on the defensive end of the court, an inspiration the Suns miss now.

Not only is the lack of steals hurting the Suns’ running offense, but the Suns’ lack of interest in playing defense in general is going to cost the Suns the opportunity to capitalize on their closing window, coach Mike D’Antoni his job if he doesn’t wise up. After all, D’Antoni’s boss, Steve Kerr, earned his championship rings with defensive juggernauts such as Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and I’m sure there are up and coming coaches out there who can coach both ends of the floor.

So far, 115 seems to be the Suns’ magic number. When the Suns defend well enough to hold their opponents under 115 points, a task which you would think wouldn’t be that hard to do, then they are 3-0. When they allow their opponents to score more than 115 points, then they are 0-5. It’s time for D’Antoni to quit paying lip service to defense and actually do something.

On the subject of people failing to understand the value of defense, this is one of the reasons why I have been saying for years that Steve Nash NEVER deserved to be an MVP of the NBA. No matter how brilliant you might be on offense, if you don’t play defense, you are half a player, not the most valuable player.

The “Showtime” Lakers of the 80s ran, yes, but they had defensive player of the year, Michael Cooper, and gritty hustling defense from the likes of Kurt Rambis, and shot blocking and shot changing Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the paint.

In other words, I knew Jack Kennedy, and D’Antoni, you are no Jack Kennedy.

So, the Suns are sliding because they are not outscoring opponents on fast breaks, and because the Suns need to quit making excuses and make instead a defensive stand against their opponents, but this has been the 411 on the Suns ever since Nash and D’Antoni took them over. They do NOT appear to be losing because of Shaquille O’Neal.

By the way, I have analyzed Shaquille O’Neal’s minutes to find a correlation with the Suns’ successes and failures, and haven’t found a definitive pattern. Can you?

Since trading Marion for O’Neal:

vs. Nuggets
Shaq’s minutes = 30
Suns’ Rebounds = even
Fast break points = -13
Result = Suns lose

vs. Portland
Shaq’s minutes = 34
Suns’ rebounds = -1
Fast break points = +10
Result = Suns win

vs. Philidelphia
Shaq’s minutes = 26
Suns’ rebounds = +4
Fast break points = -14
Result = Suns lose

vs. Hornets
Shaq’s minutes = 32
Suns’ rebounds = even
Fast break points = -3
Result = Suns lose

vs. Memphis
Shaq’s minutes = 24
Suns’ rebounds = +14
Fast break points = + 5
Result = Suns win

vs. Pistons
Shaq’s minutes = 33
Suns’ rebounds = -8
Fast break points = -10
Result = Suns lose

vs. Celtics
Shaq’s minutes = 26
Suns’ rebounds = +15
Fast break points = +11
Result = Suns win

vs. Lakers
Shaq’s minutes = 32
Suns rebounds = +8
Fast break points = -2
Result = Suns lose

  1. bbnoknowledgebbnoknowledge03-20-2008

    u write suns had less fast break points than the teams that beat them but didnt they have like 20 and 22 fast break points in a couple of those games lost which is over the suns season average of 18 fastbreak points per game.
    if there fast break point go up and marion gone its shaqs fault and nash cant lead lol

    nash leads leauge in 6 categories shoots
    50 40 90 also leads league in charges taken (thats a defensive stat) and take amareless suns to WCF lol
    you are a hater twisting stats

  2. Tom7Tom703-21-2008

    — bbnoknowledge

    First, I am NOT a Suns hater, I am a Suns FAN. That is why I took the trouble to do the research and write the article. I was worried that people were unjustly blaming Shaq for the slide.

    And for the record, I am also a fan of Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal, Leandro Barbosa, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.

    Second, not only are my stats 100% accurate, I included the stats for each game at the end of my article so that you and others can easily confirm them. I have nothing to hide, and I hope you go to NBA.com or a half a dozen other websites and verify that I am 100% accurate with these statistics.

    Then I hope you come back to this site and apologize to me for making such ludicrous accusations against a fellow Suns fan.

    By the way, in case you are one of THOSE guys, just because someone likes the Lakers doesn’t mean the also doesn’t like the Suns.

    Some of us are fans of the game FIRST, then fans of teams or players secondarily.

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